As a special treat, we are pleased to offer these guest words from our friend and learning and development expert, Diane Sadowski-Joseph. Enjoy!
You are introducing a new process on your team. You give a thorough overview, answer questions, and send them a summary of the information. Two weeks later, everyone is back to their old ways. Sound familiar?
No matter how compelling a new change is, it’s tough to override the brain’s natural resistance to new behaviors. Fortunately, there is hope.
The SAGE Question Framework uses knowledge about habit formation to help you plan and execute your change in a way that will stick. Apply the framework to any change you want to make by walking through all four questions at the start of your project.
The SAGE Question Framework
- Success: What will success look like?
- Actions: What are the actions that lead to success?
- Gut: Why does it matter?
- Easy: How can we make it easy?
Success: What will success look like?
A department director asked me to run a short training for his team on management skills. It’s hard to imagine a broader, more nuanced topic, to cover in a short session. So, I asked “what will success look like?”
This question clarifies two things: the current stage and the desired state. Knowing the gap between the two helps you understand the scope of the change necessary and establishes a shared understanding of what “done” looks like.
In the director’s case, success meant that managers would be able to answer employee questions about team policy without coming to him first.
Actions: What are the actions that lead to success?
Once we understand what success looks like, we need figure out how it’s achieved. Here I turn to psychologist Edwin Guthrie who stated, “movements compose acts and acts compose skills.” In other words, break the skills needed for success into learnable actions.
In the example above, we determined that, to answer employee questions, managers needed practice applying policy in common workplace situations and to remember where to find that information in the moment of need.
Gut: Why does it matter?
I call this the gut question because to motivate people to change, you need them to feel the need for change internally. Doing a gut check on why the change matters to your audience helps you frame it in a way that activates their intrinsic motivation – a factor strongly correlated with successful behavior modification.
In the example of policy training, being able to quickly answer those questions would give managers more time to spend on meaningful interactions with their direct reports, something we knew mattered to them a lot.
Easy: How can we make it easy?
Change is hard, it takes time and mental energy. One of the best things you can do for stickiness is make is easy for people to implement new behaviors. One of my favorite tools here is the nudge, embedding behavioral cues into the environment to encourage the desired change.
For the policy training, we realized that most policy questions came up when employees were transitioning, so in addition to training, we added links to relevant information into those existing workflows. We also got creative, inventing catchy lingo, posting pop quizzes on Slack, and hiding reminders around the office (my favorite – notes taped to granola bars in the snack cabinet).
Not only did these strategies work to effect lasting change for the director and his team, it inspired other teams to get excited about mastering these skills which lead to organization-wide change.
I hope the SAGE Question Framework inspires you to think about your own change strategy in new ways. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss further and good luck!
Diane Sadowski-Joseph runs the Impact & Strategy department at LifeLabs Learning where she helps companies achieve greater learning retention and program success as they master life’s most useful skills. Over the last decade, she has built L&D programs around the globe with a focus on behavior change and systems thinking. You can find her on LinkedIn or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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